Water crisis is so bad in Mexico City that it is one of 11 cities predicted to reach Day Zero – the day the water runs dry

mexico city water crisis, mexico city is sinking, water disappears from Mexico City
A sinking, thirsty city: The water crisis in Mexico City. Picture: Youtube video

Mexico City’s water is quite literally disappearing. I have no doubt that in 2022 there will be a crisis, the reservoirs are completely depleted.

What is happening in Mexico City?

The ancient Aztecs originally engineered the origins of Mexico City on top of Lake Texcoco and left the surrounding natural freshwater lakes intact for use. However, as the city grew the lakes were drained to make way for infrastructure, homes, and a growing population.

With expansion came an increasingly dire water security dilemma. Much of the city’s water supply comes from an underground aquifer that is being drained at an irreplaceable rate. As the aquifer is drained, Mexico City is sinking downwards rapidly at twenty inches per year.

Despite heavy flooding and rainfall, the city is facing a water shortage. In fact, more than 20 million residents don’t have enough water to drink for nearly half the year.

One in five people have access to only a few hours of running water from their taps a week and 20% have running water for part of the day. Counting on clean water is far from reliable for many.

Current projections estimate that global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030. Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, has a population of nearly 22 million and is growing steadily with population growth expected to hit 30 million by 2030.

Mexico City is one of 11 cities predicted to reach what is called Day Zero, or the day when the water runs dry. This is nothing short of a crisis. “Each drop of water that passes through the Mexican capital tells a heroic, tragic, unfinished story of urban growth and human development.

Why is Mexico City in a water crisis?

There are a few reasons why a city on top of an aquifer and with a very heavy rainy season struggles to provide potable water for its residents. Specifically, the challenges to water security are widespread and difficult for urban designers, environmentalists, and politicians alike.

A lack of sanitary wastewater treatment across the city hinders water collection and poses a huge challenge to keeping existing water clean for use.

Additionally, Mexico City’s pipes are old and leaking. According to the University of Pittsburgh, Mexico City loses 1,000 liters of water per second because of an outdated water system that is being crushed by the falling city and punctuated by thousands of small leaks.

Finally, rainwater collection exists, but no city-wide system is in place. When it rains, water often mixes with sewage and cannot be used.

Why is the city sinking?

Mexico City ended all groundwater drilling in the city central in the 1950s yet water is pumped up from below in the surrounding areas and GPS data has found the city is continuing to drop.

As water extraction has chased groundwater deeper and deeper underground, the clay lake bed is now completely dry and the tightly packed mineral soil is causing irreversible compaction. This phenomenon, called subsistence, does not have a quick fix.

Additionally, water from rain storms cannot permeate the concrete-covered city and refill the aquifer. A 2021 study made the claim that there is no hope for significant elevation and storage capacity recovery. Much of the water must be pumped to the city using hydro engineering from reservoirs thousands of kilometers away.

Mexico City is sinking, why is Mexico City sinking
Why is Mexico City sinking? Image: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Drought is a threat multiplier

Mexico continues to experience one of the most widespread droughts in decades. Unusually low rainfall has already reduced access to water in the capital. The reservoirs in Cutzamala outside the city provide a quarter of the city’s water but in 2020 the reservoirs were nearly 18 percentage points below normal levels. As precious reservoir levels plummet, the city authorities have reduced the flow from the reservoirs, which has been affecting tap water access. Some residents are relying on water delivery trucks and even donkeys.

This occurrence is predicted to repeat. Researchers have estimated the availability of natural water for the city could decrease by up to 17% by 2050 as temperatures rise.

More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse,” writes Michael Kimmelman for the New York Times.

What is Mexico doing to stop its water crisis?

Mexico recognizes the pressing issue of water facing their biggest city. Mexico City initiated the Green Plan project, which will run until 2022 with goals such as reducing groundwater losses and repairing water infrastructure among others.

Former president Enrique Peña Nieto signed a series of presidential decrees in 2018 to create water reserves in nearly 300 river basins throughout the country. And $7.4 billion has been dedicated to mitigating the water crisis by Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo in 2019.

It’s a paradox. It’s a catastrophe. Right now Mexico City is sinking and its infrastructure is literally breaking. And on the other hand there is no way for the water to filter into the aquifer naturally. And you can imagine how expensive it is to change the entire piping system.

There is no easy solution to Mexico City’s water crisis, but perhaps it lies in communal, accessible spaces above ground instead of below. [Latin America Reports]

You should really watch the documentary film: Megadrought – Vanishing Water and prepare accordingly!

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  1. Who cares they can move. You cannot put 30 million people on top of an aquifer and tell them to start pumping indefinitely and keep bringing in more people there. Pack up and move. If worse comes to worse Mexico can build desalination plants by the ocean

    • Mexico lays at a lower latitude than the US thus higher average daily temperatures thus higher humidity in coastal regions. So, what you need to do, is work on capturing the water vapor on a large scale. If you can do that, you can solve their water problem. I’m not enough of an engineer to do it.

  2. Iran was first nations still has no water in Southern Part that is very hot indeed. Well to some here no water people dies and less people on systems? Well i hope you do not ever be without food or water or shelter. We believe every one has right to water and food and shelter. Well due to COVID 19 which was fake people lost jobs and houses etc.. Please do not wish what you wish for others. We must love all USA citizens.
    1,400 dolphins were killed in the Faroe Islands in one day, shocking even some pro-whalers

    (CNN) — More than 1,400 white-sided dolphins were killed Sunday night in the Faroe Islands, in what local authorities said was a traditional whaling hunt.

    The killing has been denounced by marine conservation group Sea Shepherd as a “brutal and badly mishandled” massacre, and the largest single hunt in the Danish territory’s history.

    The organization said a super-pod of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins was corralled by speed boats and jet skis onto Skálabotnur beach on the island of Eysturoy, where they were then killed.

    The Faroe Islands are an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, lying about halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the Atlantic Ocean.

    The annual whale hunt, or grindadráp in Faroese, has been a part of local culture for centuries — but it usually involves the hunting of pilot whales. Although it has long been criticized by animal rights groups, locals have defended the practice.

    41-year-old Kristian Petersen, who is originally from the Faroese town of Fuglafjørður but now lives in Denmark, said he began participating in whaling at the age of seven — but in his village, dolphins were never targeted.

    “I have experienced that firsthand and also participated a bit,” Petersen told CNN. “As long as it has been for food only, I have supported it. But this recent catch that was this weekend, I’m against how it went on.

    Petersen is one of several whaling supporters who have condemned Sunday’s killing, saying there were “so many errors,” including pursuing a large flock and prolonging the dolphins’ suffering by not having enough people on the beaches to kill them.

    In recent decades, the practice has come under strict regulation from the Faroese government, with guidelines for the authorization of hunts and how they should be conducted.

    Many, including Petersen, have questioned the legality of Sunday’s killing, with allegations that the local foreman, who is involved in regulating whaling in the area alongside the district administrator, was not informed in line with regulations.

    The foreman, Heri Petersen, has been quoted by local media outlet In.fo calling for accountability and confirming there were too few killers involved, meaning the dolphins struggled for breath on the beach until they were killed.

    The Faroese Executive Order on Hunting Pilot Whales and Other Small Whales, issued in January 2017, states either the district administrator or foreman must approve any hunts and gives them the responsibility to “ensure that enough people are available on shore to kill the whales.”

    Bjorg Jacobsen from the Faroe Islands Police told CNN the hunt had been legal, but he declined to comment further.

    In a written statement, Faroese government spokesperson Páll Nolsøe told CNN that hunting white-sided dolphins was a sustainable practice, and said the yearly number averaged around 250 but “fluctuates greatly” — making Sunday’s catch almost six times as large.

    “The meat from each whale drive provides a large amount of valuable food, which is distributed free in the local communities where the whale drives take place… the meat of the 1,400 dolphins caught on Sunday has likewise been distributed among the participants in the catch and the local community,” he added.

    However, Sea Shepherd alleged locals had said there was too much meat from Sunday’s hunt and there were fears it would have to be discarded, pointing to interviews published in Danish outlet Ekstra Bladet.

    • Well, that’s not the way to hunt or fish properly. Besides those dolphins are smarter than their hunters in most cases. What a pity. It’s not under our authority. Nor the territory or waters, so what can you do?
      Many years ago the Japanese were doing quite a bit of dolphin killing. It brought media condemnation too. I remember.

      • The eco terrorists run at the fishing boats with smaller watercraft. Make a show, but that’s not a good idea for their safety. Fishing people can be ruthless, and 12 miles beyond coast is wild wild west mentality, and anything goes. People could be killed.

  3. Listen dumb ass,, aquifers are filled from below,, not above.. the water is called primary water,
    combining oxygen and hydgron deep underground makes the primary water that fills all acquicers..
    water is a renewable resouirce but they don’t want you to know this..
    seriously , if you don’t know this you should not be writing any articles about anything,,

  4. I live in Mexico City. For six decades, corrupt govenments allowed infrastructure to decay. The nation is in the midst of a rebirth under President AMLO. He is not yet halfway through his 6 year term. Government waste is being cut and new infrastructure is being built. Everyone has a cistern below ground and a tank on the roof to provide more storage and water pressure despite intermittent supply. Businesses with heavy usage like filtered water providers and laundromats have always taken delivery of water by truck–that is nothing new. All told, Mexico is doing GREAT for a developing country!

  5. Another good reason to have a wall. We don’t need millions of thirsty people living off taxpayers.

    Probably time to invest in desalinization plants. Start in malibu and work your way south every 20 miles till you reach san diego. Newsom will get right on it.

  6. A few hours of running water every week that is loads a bath is filled in around 5 minutes is it all family’s of 50 ?

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